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Pete: I am beyond jazzed. I didn't expect to see him till next week, but James just paid a surprise visit and he had my ancient Bolex 16mm camera with him. It's been cleaned up, buffed up, and I swear it looks better than the day I bought it back in 1982. The thing was pretty well used even then. I'm a sentimental idiot, but I can afford to be. James is a local teenager who's already got a reputation for restorations, and once he's done with school, I'm hoping I can find him a place working at Wingnuts.

My office is so stuffed there's no clear place to set it down, so I tell James to go set it on the film shelves in the viewing room. I settle up with what I owe and remind him I've got some more work for him if he wants it on his next school break. After he leaves, I wander back into the viewing room, and play with my old camera, remembering filming The Valley, and I flop in one of my oversized movie chairs and let decades-old memories play across my brain. Sometimes a wallow's a really fun thing to indulge in. I get up and poke at the film shelves aimlessly, picking up various old tapes and reels and even a few of those crappy oversized plastic-cased laser disks that didn't quite catch on a few decades ago. I turn a copy of Bad Taste around in my hands, and wish I had some company for a screening.

And then I remember the kid I met at the Halloween party. Bernie's boy. Yeah! Why not? Could be a kick. Bernie gave me his number that night, and yep, it's here on speed dial. I flop back in one of the overstuffed chairs, and balance a betamax copy of Escape from New York on my head as I ring him up.

Jay: I'm just 'bout finished up in my studio when my cell phone goes off, and I hurry to dig through my jacket to find the little fucker. Probably Gareth callin' on his lunch break, does that when he's bored, wait, caller unknown? Maybe one of the places I've applied for a job finally callin' me back..."Hello?"

Pete: "This Jay, Bernie's son? Hey, it's Pete." I pause a beat, the silence deafening. "Pete Jackson, we met at the Halloween party. Anyway, wondered if you might be in the mood to watch a few of the old horror flicks? I get these bouts of nostalgia now and then and most of my friends hide from me when I do, but well, sorta thought maybe you'd be into it. Just tell me to bugger off if you like, I'm used to it!"

Jay: The smoke I was about to light falls from my lips as my jaw drops open. Peter Jackson? Calling me? To hang out? No waaaay....I almost tell Dad to cut the shit and stop fuckin' with me while I'm workin', 'til I remember Dad hates to be called Bernie, though everybody does it. He wouldn't call himself "Bernie," even just to prank call me...well, fuckin' A. I think it is Peter Jackson on the phone...he remembers meetin' me at the party...

Fuckin' say somethin' to him, dumbass, or he's gonna hang up on you!

"Um, yeah, this is Jay," good start, keep talking, "horror movies? Sure, I'm game." I can't fuckin' believe this. Remember your fuckin' manners, man, "Um, you want me to bring anythin'?" Breathe. Just keep breathin'. And I swear to god if this is a joke I'm gonna kick whoever's ass this is from here to Auckland.

Pete: "I guess if you've got a drink of choice, haul it along. If you like rum and coke, I've got you covered. Got about every snack a human could want and a few inhuman ones too." I'll fire up the popcorn machine too, can't forget that. "I'll be home all afternoon and evening - just drop on by when you're ready to kick back for a while, sound like a plan?" I wander around the kitchen while I talk, rummaging around for some of that bulk popcorn the machine takes. "Been wanting to get you over here for weeks now! This should be fun. See you later!" I hang up and chuckle. I've needed a night off - been working too hard, and haven't taken enough time to unstress. It's been way too long since I kicked back and flung popcorn at my own creations.

Jay: I almost snark and ask him if he's got vegan jerky seein' as he said he's got everythin', but I stop myself at the last minute. Probably too soon to start kiddin' with him, he might think I'm serious though I gotta admit those Primal Strips were pretty tasty.

"Sounds good, man. I should be over there in 'bout an hour," and then I'm knocked speechless again when you say you've been wantin' to call me up for a while now. If someone had told me ten years ago that I would be goin' over to Peter Jackson's house to watch horror movies I woulda told them to go fuck themselves. This is too fuckin' surreal...I mean, this guy made the goriest zombie movie ever...fuckin' king of DIY special FX...

It's not until he's hung up that I realize he forgot to tell me his address, and I have a moment of panic when I realize his phone number is blocked. I'm on the verge of callin' Dad for Peter's address when the phone buzzes again, and a sheepish Peter gives me the info I need. It then that it strike me again that he's really just a normal guy, and I just need to chill the fuck out. He's right, this is gonna be fun...if I can keep myself from faintin'.

'Bout forty five minutes later I'm ringin' the doorbell, a six pack of Tuatara in my hand. Don't look nervous don't look nervous don't look nervous. I've got it under control by the time Peter opens the door, and I give him a grin, "How's it goin'? Did I miss the previews?"

Pete: "I grin and grab you by the arm, hauling you inside "Hey, Jay! Glad you could make it! And previews? Who needs previews? Advertise some other bastard's film on my nickel? I don't think so!" I relieve you of your burden, eyeing it appreciatively. "Ah, good man, excellent beer choice! Goes great with popcorn." I wander back down the hall, turning to grin at you and wave for you to follow, you're gawking about the place like you're going to see something fantastic. I'll show you the study later so you're not disappointed with the normal state of my living room. I keep it looking that way in case my insurance agent or other so-called normal people show up.

Ah, but you get to see the fun room. I think you'll like it. "Soooo, I've got Bad Taste and Revenge of the Gravewalker pulled out, unless you've got something else you've been craving?" I rummage around the bar down under the Coke machine for a bottle opener, and get us a couple beers opened up while you wander around the room.

I wonder how you'll react when you see the blown apart, extremely dead, very old, and quite beat to shit Feeble-prop that's slumped in one of the back row seats.

Jay: Gotta admit I'm more than a little surprised by how...well, normal your house is. Dunno what I was expectin' really, can't expect you to always be thinkin' about your movies, be like thinkin' or work all the time, and who wants to take their work home with 'em...

Holy Fuck. You've got your own movie theater in your house.

"Oh wow," I say softly, my eyes goin' wide as your screen, takin' in the old red velvet seats, the gleamin' red popcorn machine, and old-fashioned coke machine and most importantly...the rows of old props and knick-knacks linin' the walls.This. Is. The. Coolest. Room. EVER. There's so much neat stuff I barely know where to look first.

"Is this the actual signs that're in the beginnin' of Bad Taste?," I point at the "Castlerock" and "Kaihoror" road sign hangin' on the wall, and you nod, grinnin' at me like a crazy kid, "and holy shit, those are the little clay people in Heavenly Creatures," Kate Winslet is like, the most gorgeous woman ever..., "oh wow..." my eyes land on the collection of latex monstrosities I recognize from Braindead, "that baby gave me nightmares for weeks, man," I grin at you, which turns into an outright gawk as I see what's in the corner. "Is that it? That's the lawnmower?" I approach it like it were some sort of holy relic, hunkerin' down besides--but not darin' to touch--the legendary flymo...over 300 liters of fake blood pumped through this baby...

And if I thought it couldn't get any better than that, my eyes land on a large bundle of cloth sittin' in the back row as if he were waitin' for the movie to start, too..."fuckin''s Trevor...the rat," I reach my hand out, but pull it back, filled with the suddenly childish fear that this beat-up muppet is gonna snap his teeth and flip me off. Of all the characters in Meet the Feebles, this slimy little rat bastard was my favorite. And seein' him in the cloth is as awe inspirin' as meetin' an actual movie star...maybe even more so.

And here I was thinkin' we were gonna be watchin' movies in your livin' room.

Pete: Oh, this is fun. Watching Jay's eyes get bigger and bigger makes it worth my packrattish ways. Half these props I had to pull from dumpsters - I mean, really. Just because something's half blown up, or missing a eye or three, okay, maybe smells a bit, the crew thinks it's a done-for thing.

Watching your face when you almost-but-not-quite touch the lawnmower, I just really can't resist. Now you're off communing with Trevor, so you don't notice me grab the prothestic hand from behind a stack of film canisters and slip it on. I casually wander back to the lawnmover, and start talking in a nice, calm conversational voice. "Been thinking of converting this into a paper shredder for my office, since the blades are still so damned sharp. Bernie says you're good with metal and gadgets, maybe you could help me do that? Course, it's gonna be tricky, like I said, these blades are really shar---- OH HOLY HELL! AAAAAAAH!"

You whip around to stare at me, and I time my arm movement so the finger-packets all let go just as I raise my hand, four fingers chopped off at the knuckles, blood streaming down the palm. "HELP ME!"

Damn, I used to be able to keep from laughing a little longer than that. But that look on your face.... "I'm fine, Jay, really! See? Latex!" I peel the hand off and let the messy thing drop to the floor.

Jay: I fuckin' jump outta my skin when you start screamin' bloody murder, and I can feel all the blood drain from my face as fast as yours is spurtin' from your fingers. But before I can even start yellin' you start laughin', and the blood returns to my cheeks in a full on blush as I realize I'd been had. "Fuckin' hell!" I start gigglin' as the latex hand drops to the ground with a squelch, and damn if you don't look fuckin' proud of yourself.

My giggle turns into an all out laugh, tinged with more than a little embarrassment, "oh, damn! I can't believe I fell for that!" But to be honest, been waitin' for somethin' like that to happen since I stepped in the door. I feel a bit like Charley meetin' Willy Wonka for the first time, waitin' for you to bust out with somethin' amazin' at any second, and like him, I ain't disappointed.

"I tried somethin' like that on my mom once when I was a kid. I made this spurtin' stump-thing with this broken mannequin hand I'd found in the park...and then went and played in the garbage disposal of our apartment," I give you a wicked grin, "started screamin' like a banshee that I'd lost my hand, sprayin' corn syrup blood all over the kitchen...oh damn. Wish I'd had a camera to capture the look on her face," my grin falters just a little, "though damn if I didn't get in a hellava lot of trouble when she figured out I'd pulled a prank on her," I snicker again, "but hell if it wasn't worth it!"

Pete: I wander over behind the bar and rinse off the stray blood, jabbing paper towels at the mess I made on my sleeve. But like you said, it was worth it. I'm paying full attention to your story, nodding and laughing as you talk.

"Damn. I really hope you gave Bernie fits growing up, Jay! That's excellent! You've got a mind for this stuff. Not everyone sees a broken mannequin and thinks garbage disposal, more's the pity. And you know, I'd love to hear your blood recipe. I've got a couple amazing ones, the one with cocoa added to the corn syrup is so realistic - even dries on a tablecloth in perfect two toned blood spots. Stuff's delicious, too. I've got another one that uses chinese dipping sauce, really gives that blobby hanging goo effect." Fear us, Martha Stewart.

I think Braindead is going to suit the mood of the night, and I work on getting the film threaded up. "Go ahead and make a drink if you like, under the Coke machine's a fairly stocked bar, and damn, nearly forgot! Can you turn on that toggle switch on the back of the popcorn machine? It's loaded up, should only take about five minutes or so."

Jay: I think back hard as I search for the switch on the popcorn machine, "well, I was only, like 12, 13 or so, so the blood recipe wasn't really that complicated. It was pretty much corn syrup, water and some of Ma's rose grenadine. Which I think is what pissed her off." No tequila sunrises for her for a while. Lookin' back, I might have had alterior motives. But then again, it was there and looked perfectly like blood. That's all the reason I really needed at the time.

Once I'm sure the gears are chuggin' away, I crack open a beer and lean on the table beside the machine, figurin' I should make sure the stuff doesn't burn. My eyes light up as I remember another recipe, "I'm sure you know this one, but I once had to make buckets of blood for a stage performance. My friends back in Brooklyn have a performance art group, and one day they decided they wanted to do this whole zombie-Carrie thing. So I made like, five buckets of blood outta water, red-jello, and food-colorin', and got this great runny stuff with all these thick clots…fuckin' nasty-lookin' stuff, but tasted like wild cherry. But the actor they needed was a big sissy, whinin' about how he never agreed to get all bloody," I give you a wicked grin, "so I got to get doused in bucket after bucket of this stuff while these zombies 'attacked' me…damn that was a lot of fun!"

Talkin' about this weird stuff I used to do has relaxed me more than a bit, and I feel brave enough now to start askin' questions, "man, this room's really set up to project 35mm? Damn, if I had one of these in my house, I don't think I'd ever leave it again. Just set up a bed in the corner, fridge in the other." It's only now that I realize how long it's been since I've been to the movies…fuck I think it was Aliens Vs. Predator months ago. Damn, I'm really fuckin' lookin' forward to this.

Pete: The popcorn thumps away on the inside of the steel kettle as you tell me your story, and by the time you're done, it's pushed up the lid and is spilling down in heaps. "Excellent! Most people overlook the visual value of globs and clots when they're going for bulk quantities of blood. That's a damned fine recipe, tried and true and still worth it's weight in gore." I wander over and find the popcorn bags in the drawer under the glass housing and deftly scoop up enough to fill two bags, handing you one. I grab another beer and manage to juggle them both while I get the film rolling.

While the opening sequences roll, I get myself settled in, sliding down into the slouch I've perfected over many years. "Ya know, Jay, I'd love to know how far ahead of the lawnmower scene Kill Bill was, for sheer gallons of blood. My record's shot, has to be. There's no way it isn't. I mean, you saw those geysers pouring from his character's chests? Beautiful. I nearly cried. And, well - have to admit, I really wanted to hang onto that record. How do you beat out someone like Tarantino, though? I didn't have his budget!"

And then we're off, and our intrepid expeditioners set out in search of that excellent creature, the Rat Monkey. I glance over at you to see if you're having a good time, and your smile says it all. I grin and crunch down on a handful of popcorn, then flick a piece at your face, staring innocently at the screen.

Jay: I'm so immersed in the film that I barely notice the popcorn, but when the second little puff bounces off my ear I realize what's goin' on. Ooooh, you wanna throw popcorn? Dude, you have no idea what you've unleashed! I'm the king of throwin' snack food.

I pretend I didn't notice that one either, but next time I reach for my bag, rather than pickin' up a kernel, I flick the very top one, and have to repress a snicker as I watch it ricochet off your beard. But you musta noticed the smirk on my face, 'cause this time you don't even hide it when you chuck a small handful at me with an evil grin. I flick even more at you, finally turnin' so I can get a better shot, gigglin' like a ten-year-old as I send a steady staccato of popcorn flyin' into your face. And just when I think I might be winnin' this popcorn fight, you pull the winnin' move, tossin' what's left of your bag at me, and I close my eyes—but open my mouth—as the popcorn covers me like a soft white wave. You're snickerin' somethin' fierce, and I am too, and it seems to amuse you even more as I untangle a kernel from my hair and pop it into my mouth as I go back to watchin' the movie with a grin. "Where's your corn? I'm set up here, man!"

We watch the rest of the movie without further incident, yammerin' and carryin' on as this sick story unfolds before us. This is a thousand times fuckin' better than watchin' the DVD with a director's commentary, and you don't seem to mind the questions I ask 'bout how you made the film. But mostly I just howl and cringe as the carnage ensures, and by the time the final credits roll I have that slightly nauseous, excited buzz I get only from really good, gory movies. "Fuckin' brilliant, man."

You go to switch the projector as I refill the popcorn bags and open a coupla fresh beers, and I think back to what you'd said about keepin' your gore record. "You know, um, you do have the budget now…what's to keep you from makin' another shot at reclaimin' that record? "

Pete: "I guess nothing's stopping me... except history. Been there, done that, you know? Still. Some things ARE hard to resist, and it just might piss off Tarantino. That would be amusing." I quick-fling a handful of popcorn at your t-shirt, hissing 'yes!' when half of it gets down your collar. "Like I said, some things are hard to resist."

I pull my beer out of the holder in my seat's arm, and go for a swig, getting a mouthful of nothing. I pretend not to notice that the neck of my beer bottle's completely stuffed with popcorn. He's good, I didn't see him do that, and I will not look at Jay right now and give him the satisfaction. I stick the bottle back in my mouth and suck hard, unwedging the popcorn, but my victory comes at a price. I nearly gag as I get a mouthful of soggy kernels and a rush of beer. While I clear up my coughing fit, I wave my arm at the screen to make sure you're watching Uncle Les's party instead of me turning blue. Once I'm back in control of my breathing, I settle back into the fun. Christ, Uncle Les was disgusting. I'm so damned proud of him. I tilt my beer back and take a good gulp. My vision goes half blurry when a random bit of popcorn falls out of the sky to lodge between my eye and my glasses. I retaliate with a large puffed kernel stuffed directly into your ear.

I'm having the best time ever.

Jay: I feel slightly guilty watchin' you choke on your popcorn-clogged beer, but hell, you started the fight! Just in case, I double check the neck of my bottle 'fore takin' a swig myself.

As we watch the second movie, banterin' questions and answers and howls between us, I'm surprised at how easy it was for me to get comfortable 'round you. Like, you're my favorite horror filmmaker ever, right up there with Hitchcock and Fulci and Romero…and to think I'm sittin' here with you chillin' as if we were old buds…just damn. But you're a hell of a lotta fun to hang out with, more fun then I expected, to be honest. Always thought filmmakers were these very serious, busy types, barkin' orders at everyone even when not on set. James Cameron was a right dick that one time I met him, and Stephen Hopkins was too busy to care that an 18-year old kid was practically dyin' of dysentery on his set. But you've still got a serious sense of humor, and this cheerful, near-childish morbidity, and seem genuinely interested in gettin' to know me. You're all right in my book, man.

So when the movie ends, I'm not too surprised when you ask if I wanna stick around for an actual dinner, and I'm not too surprised when I easily accept. 'fore long we're in the kitchen, and I'm helpin' you slice up bread while you heat up some soup. We're still swappin' stories 'bout the horror movies that changed our lives, and I take a perverse pleasure in talkin' 'bout the The Exorcist while eatin' split pea soup. "Swear to god, man, I don't think any movie has scared me so much. I was like…fuck…ten, I think when I first saw it. It was a double feature with The Omen at this second-run movie theater near my apartment, used to do retro screenin's on the weekends. I thought I was old 'nough to take it…jesus christ. I was too scared to leave the theater by myself after that. Waited until Sal, the guy who owned the place, closed up so he could walk me the two blocks home. Was scared Linda Blair was gonna hop outta the bushes in the front of the church and spew vomit all over me or somethin'…" I dip a chunk of bread in the soup, "what about you, Mr. Jackson? What the scariest movie you've ever seen?"

Pete: I pull apart a chunk of bread and pitch it at the top of your head. "Pete. Name's Pete. You passed the blood and popcorn tests, Jay, stop being so bloody formal."

I listen to your story, absolutely loving the fact that you're eating that thick green soup while you talk. "Damn. The Exorcist got to you too? I got sick when I saw it. No, really, I mean I was getting sick, but I didn't know it yet, just knew I was feeling like shit afterwards, and I was so freaked out I thought I'd caught some horrible thing from the movie! Turned out I was getting a rotten case of the flu, but the timing was so weird."

"But that's not the one that scared me the most. Nothing's ever gotten to me like Halloween did. I know it's nothing by today's standards, but when it first came out..." I push aside my plate and lean forward on my elbows, completely intent on this. I know you'll get it, you'll understand what I'm saying. "The tension just kept building and building and fucking building and never stopped, right up to that chase through the house. And... then I thought it was over. He was dead." I stop talking, just remembering it all in my head, those last minutes playing out in my mind, re-capturing the feel of it. You're staring at me, and I think you might be holding your breath. "And then he just... sits up." I exhale sharply, shaking my head. "I've never been so scared in my entire life."

Jay: "Dude, yeah, Halloween scared me shitless, too," I grin, realizin' I'm on a first name basis with you now, "the use of music in the film is amazin'. Just the openin' sequence, with that eerie synth with that long take of the jack-o-lantern…" I shudder deliciously, "it's one of my favorite slasher movies ever. Only thing that can really hold a candle to it is Psycho, and that was years before it's time. Granddaddy of 'em all." I muse as I swallow more of this incredible soup, "But Halloween's also got a special place in my heart since it's always shown so close to my birthday. I was born the day before Halloween…which pisses me off. If I'd been able to hold out for four more minutes, I woulda been a Halloween baby. But still, means I my favorite holiday and my birthday are back to back, which is really fuckin' cool. Lots of midnight movies and parties and stuff," I flash you a wicked grin, "think it was my sixteenth birthday that was Dead Alive back to back with Evil Dead 2. Managed to convince everyone to dress like zombies 'cuz it was my birthday."

Pete: "Psycho! Hitchcock used chocolate syrup for blood, but it was black and white, that worked just fine. Did you know the house was based on a painting done in the '20's? One called House by the Railroad. And speaking of artwork... " Something's sprung to mind. I smile and slide out of my chair without another word, and head back to my office. It takes a bit of rummaging around in the stacks behind the couch, but finally I find the old lobby card I had in mind. You're looking at me curiously when I come back. "I didn't know it was your birthday back at the Halloween party at the Firkin, but maybe that's all right. I didn't know you very well then and wouldn't have known what to give you. But I think you might like this. I'll sign it for you if you want. Happy belated birthday, Jay."

Jay: I'm about to chime in that they used chocolate syrup for the basement murder scene in the original Night of the Living Dead when you hand me the lobby card, and I go speechless again. I'm almost back in fanboy mode as I study the black and white glossy as you talk, and I'm careful to only touch the edges so I don't smudge it.

"Wow…thank you, Mr. Ja—Pete," I catch myself, but not before you've lightly thwapped me upside the head, and I laugh a little as I put the card down on the table, "um, yeah if you wanted to autograph it that's be great," I flash you a wicked grin, "unless your hand's cramped from flingin' so much popcorn."

As you rummage around for a pen, the little wheels in my head are already turnin'. I remember readin' somewhere that your birthday is on Halloween…which means I missed it too. But like you said, we didn't really know each other back then. And after this afternoon, I know I could weld you somethin' awesome…once I get the money for the materials.

After you sign the lobby card, I help you clear the table, stackin' the dirty dishes in the sink. Figure it's probably time I shove off, Gareth's probably home from band practice already, and I've taken up all your night. But judgin' by the wide grin on your face as you shake my hand, you don't seem to mind at all. "Thanks for the evenin' Pete. Gimme a call if you ever wanna do another movie thing," I hesitate, but what the hell, "I hear they're havin' a Dario Argento double-bill down at the Bijoux this weekend. Lemme know if you wanna go and I'll snag us a couple tickets."

Pete: I let out a whoop at that offer. "Dario Argento? Jay, I'm so there, absolutely! He's been making movies since I was six and he's still going. He's seriously insane! What's on the double-bill.... NO, wait, don't tell me. Don't want to know. I'll avoid the entertainment section of the paper till then, I mean it. I love surprises! Just give me a call when you've got tickets and tell me what time we're meeting."

You shuffle a little, then grin and stick out your hand. And I'm sorry, but we just shared screams, snorts, frights, oily butter and obscure trivia, and you've got fake blood on your sleeve. Handshake's just not called for after all that. I fling an arm around your shoulder and give you a fast jolting hug, then push you towards the door, laughing. "Go on with you! Real life's out there somewhere, not that I'd ever recognize it if I tripped over it. I'll see you Sunday, Jay."
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